Since Marvel and Sony committed to sharing Spider-Man, the web head has appeared in 4 films since 2016 with his own franchise off to a fantastic start with Spider-Man: Homecoming. With Spider-Man in Marvels trusting hands, Kevin Feige and team have brought to life the most comic accurate version of the character to the big screen. Ripped straight from the pages of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s legendary run of the character way back from the 1960’s – this iteration of the character is the best version of Peter Parker and Spider-Man than what has been done by Sam Raimi and Marc Webb respectively.
Spider-Man’s popularity is something to be admired – when it was announced that Spider-Man would appear in the MCU, a franchise popped up overnight with a chance to integrate the character into an Avengers level film or 3 to fight off Thanos. The decision to bring Peter Parker (Tom Holland) back to high school and his origins (without going through that song and dance for a third time) was the best decision, especially deciding on keeping him there. In Homecoming Peter was a sophomore, in Far from Home, Peter, his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Michelle (Zendaya), Flash (Tony Revolori) and the rest of their class are juniors with half the school making their return after a 5-year absence when what is dubbed as “The Blip” brings everyone back.
Picking up after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Tony Stark’s sacrificial death to save the universe, the question Far from Home poses is – who will be the next Iron Man? By the way the story has unfolded so far, the answer would be Peter, but Peter doesn’t want that. He wants to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – something Homecoming established and executed well.
Sam Raimi’s trilogy themes encompass responsibility and forgiveness – the entire trilogy develops these themes well with Raimi capturing the essence of the character’s morality. Marc Webb’s two films theme’s deal with grief and mourning with so much death surrounding Garfield’s Peter. Jon Watts films thematically have dealt with expectation – everyone expects Peter to follow in Iron Man’s footsteps. That’s why Tony chose Peter – Peter represents a better chance to embody a true hero – everything Tony couldn’t be, Peter can. But with that expectation on Peter’s shoulders, the responsibility thrust upon him is too much to handle. Peter isn’t perfect, he makes many mistakes and learns from them, every time.
Responsibility has been a theme in Watts’ films, but it’s not as explicitly written into the character. Peter understands the responsibility weighing on his back and every time he wants to do the right thing and just experience his European vacation, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) drags Peter back into the fold. That fold, created by Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his nefarious villainous scheme to get back at his former boss Tony Stark for stealing his life’s work. Not as menacing as Michael Keaton’s Vulture, Mysterio is still a worthy villain going up against the web head.
Visually, Far from Home is gorgeous, especially with the illusion sequences. As I mentioned earlier the sequences are ripped from the pages of the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko run of Spider-Man. May be too CGI heavy, the sequences offer the strongest effects in the film. If anything is true, Spider-Man’s rogues gallery of villains have been handled correctly by Marvel Studios as well as the main character. Brining Beck to life, Gyllenhaal is charismatic and deceptive in the role – not wanting to hurt Peter because he respects him but stopping Peter because he could ruin the plan of cleaning up after the events of Endgame.
Holland is the true embodiment of both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. He has enough awkward teen angst to make him a complete weirdo but still with enough charm to get him by and once the suit is on (Night Monkey or otherwise) he has the sarcastic quick whited humor to throw a villain off his game (well that and his Peter tingle).
The supporting cast around Tom all look their most comfortable in their return to the roles. Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) has a bigger role (stepping into the mentor role) dating Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). The addition of J. B. Smoove as a teacher who believes in science but is quick to blame witchcraft on the events caused by Mysterio adds another layer of humor to the already funny lighthearted tone. Tom, Jacob, and Zendaya all have wonderful chemistry together, even with two budding romances, the three of them shine on screen with all the banter and dialogue. Even with Peter and MJ’s relationship, the standout is Ned and Betty (Angourie Rice). Both characters epitomize a high school relationship perfectly – writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers understand these quickly digested romances.
Spider-Man: Far from Home doesn’t quite live up to what Homecoming established but still posts a solid effort in the follow up. Marvel is too reliant on a story involving Tony Stark even after the characters noble death as if they don’t trust Spider-Man to carry the film on his own with the addition of Nick Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Tom is the perfect example of Peter Parker and Spider-Man who leads an ensemble cast that all understand their roles perfectly. Far from Home fails to keep the friendly neighborhood aspect in Spider-Man’s identity but is a solid effort nonetheless with outstanding visual effects in its action sequences.
Through two films, Jon Watts’ efforts greatly exceed Sam Raimi’s and Marc Webb’s first two.
Written By: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Directed By: Jon Watts
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Matthew J. Lloyd
Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal
Release Date: July 2, 2019
Running Time: 2 Hours 10 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
My Score: 4 out of 5
Based On: Spider-Man by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee